‘Tis the Season for Shopping: Find Treasures Locally!

Here we are, Black Friday morning, with news stories posting by dawn about the insanity inspired by big store deals. But there are more ways than one to stuff that stocking with care!

To start it off right, today’s edible South Shore publication’s (and you can’t get more local than that series’ publications, find one near you! ) blog entry gives many listings for local vendors offering unique delights on the South Shore, check out the ones near you.

And I have often talked up Violet Skin Boutique in Brookline, where you will find exquisitely handmade, natural beauty products, along with many spa treatment offerings. I highly recommend the chocolate face mask, and the coffee face scrub if she has it in stock (i.e. fresh from her ‘lab’). Violet is also running sales on gift sets starting next weekend.

Lastly, I recently discovered another local treasure, Sacred Space Healing Center in Marshfield. I got a discounted price on a hot stone massage through Living Social – a nationwide company that specializes in bringing you deals on vendors in your region. I usually get deep tissue work done, but Michelle LeVangie-Gilmore, proprietor and practitioner, worked melty magic with her volcano and granite hot stones on some seriously spasmatic back areas and rope-tight calves, not to mention all the muscles in between! But this is only half of the local magic here. She has a magnificent and cozy boutique of local artists’ work in jewelry and décor, and I believe is having an event with sales on these individuals’ creations this coming Thursday evening, the 29th. Get there if you can, and bring a bit of extra cash to get yourself a little local holiday joy. The hard part will be choosing which one(s) !

Regardless, where ever you live, whomever you need to shop for, there are always little secret treasures to be found and given with personal thought and consideration all around you. Tomorrow, November 24th, is Small Business Saturday, to be the counterpoint to Black Friday. Get out there and support your local community!

Happy Shopping and Happy Holidays.

Herb Garden Harvest

They say we reap what we sow in this life.

Today, I am going to show you how I did that in the literal sense. If you read my Sprung Spring post last May, you saw Chris and me planting seeds in our basement and then trying to get them to live on outside. We had some successes, and some mild to annoying failures. I am given to understand that this is the nature of gardening, no matter how long you’re at it. AKA a perfect foil for a type-A personality. So it’s good for my attempts at harnessing the land that I think of myself as more of an A-/B+ personality…

Anyway, the herbs that did the best from seed were basil, oregano, sage, and lemon balm. Rosemary and mint floundered, lavender never even showed, nor did thyme.

We used all the basil fresh, and without realizing it, I let it go to seed, so I’ll show you that with the rest of the seed saving. It really did grow well, though. I had it in a wooden tub container – here are the seedlings in it.

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Sorry I don’t have a shot of its prolific life, but it was terrific right outside the door, heavenly to pass on a warm summer evening.

The lemon balm went gang busters! It is apparently of the mint family and so can get a bit aggressive.

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I cut quite a bit down to dry.

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I think when it comes back in the spring, for it’s a perennial (more than one season), I’ll transfer it to a container as well.

Next to the lemon balm was the sage. It floundered for a while, since I thought adding the compost to the top soil would be plenty of feeding, so it didn’t get very big. Once I fed it though, it got good enough to be gathered.

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I had to resist the urge to just crush it all in my hands and inhale deeply.

I fell in love with sage on my cross country trip after college with my friend Jennifer, and we spent a lot of time in the Southwest. This stuff just grew in multiple varieties; purple, silver, striped, in every crack of those otherwordly rock faces all through the area, a bright contrast to the warm tones ribboning across the landscape. We would just snap a bouquet off and rub it into a mashed up nosegay straight from the earth. It felt like an awakening to the sheer pleasure of breathing deeply.

So like I said – love.

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I left some tops behind when I trimmed to make sure this grew back next year as well – another perennial.

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Even this late in November, there are still some fresh sprigs living on, and we’ve had a superstorm and a snow storm since I cut this! I am going to trim some more of what’s useable to take to my father-in-law for Thanksgiving dinner.

As an aside, my sister-in-law, Warrior Woman of 33 hours of labor followed by a c-section, became mother to two little girls this week! Congratulations to Family Gee! We will spend this Thanksgiving with much to be grateful for, as we have our first experiences as aunt and uncle. Woo hoo! Rest assured, I’ll write up the Violet products I plan on getting the girls in a coming post…

Here’s the basket of yield, just from these two herbs.

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The lemon balm is covering the sage, that’s how much there is.

I also was able to harvest some oregano. I grew it in a container, it did ok. I think it could’ve been taller.

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Again, I left some behind to encourage its return.

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I then transplanted this to the bed in front of the driveway so it’ll be already in place for next year.

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Something kind of cool happened to the oregano, too. You can see in the above picture that it’s very green. As it got on in the season, many of the leaves turned purple-ish, as if oregano has fall colors of its own!

As I mentioned, the thyme never came to much from seed, either. Halfway through the summer, I got a thyme plant from my South Shore Organics delights and planted it in this bed, too.

It has even filled in a bit since I transplanted it.

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I will trim some of this for Thanksgiving as well. Those are French marigolds you see behind it. You’ll see much more of them in the seed saving post.

I dried the oregano separately from the other two.

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I cleaned it and then put it on an old cotton t-shirt in the basement. The water heater and the furnace down there make it a great, low humidity spot for drying in the fall. Two weeks later, I cleaned the stems, crumpled it up first with my fingers and then a bit in a mortar and pestle. I got about half a standard dry herb jar’s worth.

I then washed and laid out the other two herbs.

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I put the sheet on the table outside so that they could dry a bit and not get pools of moisture between them and the plastic tabletop.

In the end, I piled the lemon balm too high and left it out there for too long and it molded. It did make for some very aromatic additions to the compost, though. sigh…

I did take the sage and bundle it for drying, but I figured out how to conveniently hang it straight down (wire hanger off a pipe, with herb stems hanging by binder clips) too late, and they dried sideways. The leaves drooped and curled.

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Needless to say, I won’t be making smudge sticks this year…

I picked out all the big leaves and put them in a vacuum seal jar.

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The remainder, small leaves and stems, went in a bowl and now sit on top of the mantle, waiting for winter fires to fragrance.

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I salvaged what I could of the puny rosemary and mint plants to try and keep them alive over the winter inside.

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Only a few weeks in, though, and the rosemary is drying up.

I painted a pot for the mint with some very cool stick-on stencils.

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these things are like Colorforms!

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don’t try a paint pen with stencils – super pain. the flat faced brushes work best.

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stick and restick to make symmetrical patterns!

Here’s the finished pot with plant in it.

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I would show you a picture of it now, thriving in the sunny dining room window, but my camera just decided to die. The day before we meet our nieces. Mercury is definitely retrograde, people. I’d go on with a little astronomy and astrology, but I’ll skip it for now. This has been a full post!

I’ll be back with more autumn activities soon.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Code for Yummy

Happy Sunday, everyone.

I shared a meme on Facebook the other day from Show Me The Fitness‘s page, and it was shared with great alacrity, phrases of praise and astonishment accompanied it; I felt compelled to disseminate this mote of wisdom… Or, people really seemed to like the information, so I thought I’d pass it on.

It falls under that category of ‘”bet you never knew right in front of you”; a small but infinitely useful tidbit that has been there the whole time and is only now getting some play.

Turns out, those silly little stickers on produce have more purpose than being stuck to your kitchen floor, gumming up the garbage disposal, and being the last non-organic thing to survive the compost heap. Yes, they actually give you valuable data.

Behold:

produce label

Obviously, this came to be shared due to the No vote on Proposition 37 in California to mandate labeling of genetically modified crops, or GMOs. It’s good to know that you can still find something out about it, for produce at least, until this changes. If you want to know more about this issue, here is the Huffington Post’s write-up post-loss.

Regardless, people were excited to know this information was at their fingertips, and I thought perhaps you might be, too.

What will you choose?

You know I’m all about the nines.

Oh, and if anyone sees any 8’s – tell me about it! I’m curious what’s out there.

Continued Radish Excitement

 

Hi everyone!

If you read my latest blog from this past Saturday, I showed you some whole watermelon radishes and mentioned putting them on a sandwich.

Now, my friend P.K. Newby from blog ‘The Nutrition Doctor Is In’ shows you the inside of those radishes and then kicks it up a notch.

I can’t wait to try her French Radish Sandwiches with herb butter, seen here. Yum!

French Radish Sandwiches, The P.K. Way

P.K. Newby’s French Breakfast Radish Crostini

Autumn Harvest

Greetings readers!

I am finally back to activity after a couple of months being downed by back spasms, which was not fun I’ll have you know. I’ve always thought I could easily count on my body, but it turns out if you ignore it, it’ll start shouting. Message received, Body. Back to yoga and forward into Pilates (which I believe was instrumental in my relatively speedy recovery) and other modes of self-care.

One of the favored methods of self-care, of course, is delicious, local, and/or organic food. Being so much less than fully functional also kept me from my time at South Shore Organics, helping out with the packing of boxes of delivered local and organic produce. Finally, I’m back! I don’t have a flex schedule now that school’s back, so Wednesday nights I go down and help instead. All of two, anyway; Halloween’s night of packing was postponed so farmers had more time to harvest their crops after Hurricane or Superstorm Sandy hit us this week. We didn’t get much damage here in MA, thankfully, but watching my home state and childhood beaches suffer its aftermath has been…harrowing. I have been thinking about all my friends and loved ones in the tri-state area constantly, wishing them safety and recovery.

But I digress. Allow me to distract instead!

Food, glorious food; a rainbow in your bounty! Check out all these beauties:

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That’s just one week’s box. Here are some of the next week’s box.

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The butternut and the big orange one (name unknown to me) I had from the last box. With the second box we added a favorite, spaghetti squash – pale and oval there on top, and a celebration squash, I think it’s called, all festive and stripey on the left.

I am keeping them outside so they stay fresh. I am trying to figure out how to create cold storage for the winter without a garage or cold corner of my basement so I can keep food longer. I am pondering a large tupperware with a blanket, and maybe a second smaller tupperware inside it to create some insulation, and leaving it on the porch. Tips, anyone??

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These are watermelon radishes, called so because they are colored with a whitish-green ring around the outside and a bright fuschia center, like a watermelon. They’ve even got a slightly sweet taste at first bite, tempering the bitterness that is prevalent in radishes and turnips. Pam at SSO said her favorite thing to do with them was slice them onto a sandwich. This was DE-licious. I will take a picture of the inside next time I cut one open, promise.

There’s something you need to know about the peppers that are in this photo: I got them a week and a half ago!

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Look any worse for the wear? No? “What’s your secret, Kate?” you ask? I am happy to share!

First, you’ll see to the right a plastic bag; this is where the peppers have been. But it’s not just any regular plastic bag – it is a Debbie Meyer green bag. These work, I assure you! The first time I used them, I kept fresh parsley for three weeks without any wilting, discoloring or loss of taste. I was very impressed! So I recently got a new batch to store the season’s bounty. I also just noticed their website has many other fascinating products – I’ll have to shop more. I’ve already tried the bread bags and they work, too!

And I added a new product from another local entrepreneur called Fresh Paper. The company is called Fenugreen.

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The product’s makers claim that this piece of paper, which looks like a quarter of a paper towel, keeps produce fresh 2-4 times longer, organically. The secret is a blend of organic spices, particularly fenugreek – a legume that has incredible antibacterial properties. I stuck it in with all the fruits and veggies and it seems to be working great. It also says it doesn’t have to be in a bag, so I put it in the basket with the squashes and the onions.

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last of the season’s local corn!

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Here was the most exciting new experience from this latest batch, the Hen of the Woods mushroom!

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I think it grows out of the side of trees, or logs, as you can sort of visualize with this angle:

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I didn’t know what it would be more like, woody shiitake or meaty portabella – it seemed to be a lovely combination of the two. I cut about a third of it up to add to Fabulous Beef Quickie, a dear family recipe, which I’ve likely mentioned before.

It’s called ‘Quickie’ because it takes ten minutes to throw together some stew beef, cream of mushroom, red wine, salt, garlic, spices and mushrooms. Put it over egg noodles and voila – a lovely cool weather dinner. Plus excellent leftovers. It does take three hours to slow cook, so the husband likes to call it Fabulous Beef Slowie. He does, however, savor the smell of one of his favorite wife dishes wafting through the house on a chilly afternoon. So the joke, and he, are allowed to live…

That’s all for now from our little homestead. Soon up, the seed saving I’ve been attempting from my moderately successful gardening season.

Until then, eat local, eat fresh, eat hearty!

Win Big! Collect Local Produce!

I was scolded at brunch this past Sunday, by my mother’s elder brother – the de facto patriarch of our Kelley clan, with these words:

“Write a blog, Katy.”

Don’t get any ideas, by the way – there are less than two dozen people on the planet who are allowed to call me that, only 5 not related to me.

So I take my rebuke that I have been lax in writing to heart, and return to post.

This one’s for you, Bill!

I have been spending a regular share of my free time at South Shore Organics, based out of Duxbury, helping them bag fresh, and mostly local, organic produce for what is in essence a delivery Community Share of Agriculture, or CSA. I re-posted a story in which the owner, Pam Denholm, is interviewed on local NPR radio a couple of weeks ago. In exchange for a few hours of my time each week, I am showered with beautiful fruits and vegetables, a bounty we have been thoroughly enjoying.

Traditionally, you buy a share of a particular farm’s produce for a season and go there or to a pre-arranged spot to pick it up. You only get what is possible to grow in our local season. What Pam and her company do is get organic produce from many local farms and then supplement with other organic produce from other parts of the country to provide more variety, one of the more common concerns when considering participating in a CSA. This practice also allows them to have a longer delivery season.

It’s amazing getting such a variety plus all the local in-season beauties. However, even SSO has been effected by the drought causing major crop failures in the center of the country, having to get peaches from California instead of the Carolinas for one, since the latter lost quite a bit of their summer crops.

I was reading through a few back issues of my electronic newsletters a couple of weeks ago. Many of them featured stories from sources like the Washington Post and the Weather Channel  about the effects of the widespread record drought on produce prices, and a photo slide show of the devastation, or the NRDC’s issues with the Agricultural Bill currently up for renewal in Congress.

Things look a little unsure in the current national food picture. This only gives you another reason to seek out local sources for your food. Prices at the grocery store will rise for a while, even meat; for now, there will be a sort of influx of animal products to the market while ranchers, um, deal with an abundance of livestock that they cannot get feed for. Next year, meat prices will join the rise.

If you get more of your needs met locally, where drought is not affecting current local yields, you are likely to end up spending less, and your money gets to go right back into local pockets.

I will now show you some of the lovely delights we’ve had access to from people who live and work near us, people I get to see weekly.

We start with my first day at SSO and my new car (new to me, anyway) full of local farm produce:

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zucchini, yellow and green beans, peas, cukes, and many burlap bags full of corn. Fun!

Next was off to Lolans Farm for fresh eggs!

These are the ladies:

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I believe this handsome guy is the man of the house:

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This farm is lovely!

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classic decor

and here are the gorgeous eggs!

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all different breeds, all different types of eggs. one was even fairly pale green! you can’t really tell but here it is:

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look at the yolk color:

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This is the chard tart I made with the local rainbow chard and the eggs. There are local, organic potatoes underneath as well.

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These are the blueberries I used in the blueberry lemon tea cake I tried to make:

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I had too small a bread tin. It volcanoed and the blueberries didn’t have enough room. But it was delicious so I will try again.

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freshy crisp string beans

 

With many of the things I got, I made my couscous confetti salad.

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You can see the Narragansett Creamery feta, they’re from Rhode Island, and some tiny super sweet local cherry tomatoes.

The other local players:

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white salad turnips with Newman’s for tasting

 

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carrots and celery back there getting a drink

 

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local cuke and a regular store bought pepper. it’s just such a good flavor and texture in the salad!

I also got something new to me this year that I added just a bit of; purslane. Purslane grows wild everywhere, probably in your sidewalk cracks:

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That’s right; purslane basically grows like a weed in your yard. But it’s also a succulent herb. It’s plump and a bit tangy and it is a nutrition powerhouse! It has five times the amount of omega-3 fatty acids that spinach does and tons of vitamin C. It also is an excellent source of vitamin A, one of the highest in the leafy green world, as well as many B-complex vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium. And that’s not all.

It’s a much more subtle flavor than many leafy greens, with great crunch. This would be a great plant to consider as ground cover in an edible landscape.

I am not sure it was local, but I also had organic red cabbage to add. we’d used much of it to make cole slaw already.

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I added some lightly toasted almond slivers and a few capfuls of Newman’s Balsamic Vinegrette (of course), a bit of salt and pepper, the last of my Il Lago olive oil I got at the farmer’s market, lots of feta at the end – keeping it cold until you add it helps keep it whole instead of a bit melty when you combine the salad, and offered plain tuna on the side for a little produce boost.

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I used the pearled couscous because Chris favors it but you can use any kind.

And that’s not all, oh no. It’s stone fruit season! and melon season! and corn!

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that’s right, two of ’em.

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Chris is at peace with these particular fruit and veg

We were having guests for the weekend, one of which was my adorably pregnant sister-in-law, so Pam was super generous! There are the two cantaloupes – outstandingly sweet – huge, juicy corn, cherries, blueberries, peaches, and plums! She had many tips about delightful melon treats for expectant mommies spending the night in a house without central air on hot August nights! I am sorry I didn’t take a picture of the fruit salad I made – I added basil from my pot outside and a bit of balsamic vinegar. I wish I had made enough for extras, there was certainly enough fruit! Guess I’ll just have to make more, so sad…

I also stopped at the farmer’s market outside the train station on my way home from work and got some top round steaks from Lilac Hedge Farm , which raises its animals with sustainable practices, so we could make steak tips.

The crisper drawers are full of more more more. Plus the freezer is overflowing with some other local meats and locally made fresh ravioli and linguini. With very little of our daily food items coming from the grocery store, we are easily avoiding price hikes and putting our efforts and money back in to our local community. A delicious win-win.

Oh, summer! What wonderful local events are available for being entertained by the earth and food. Can’t wait to learn about growing yummy heirlooms! Hope to see some of you there!

edible South Shore & South Coast Blog

SEMAP announces new local food educational offerings

The Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP) offers community education and technical assistance covering a variety of local food topics for eaters and growers.  Between next Tuesday, July 31st, and Wednesday, October 24th there are six distinct opportunities to grow your local food knowledge.  For workshop & event details and to signup online go to SEMAPonline.org/semap/classes-events/.  Have an idea for a class?  You can e-mail your workshop and technical assistance course requests and ideas to info@semaponline.org.

July 31st: Local Food 101 with Bob Bailey, at the Old Methodist Meeting House in Wareham, MA – covering the Why, Where, & How of local food in southeastern Massachusetts.  At this seminar, learn about the benefits of local food (health, environment, local economy), where to find local food, and what to do with it once you’ve got it!  Free!  This educational seminar is funded…

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